Friday, December 8, 2006

For the love of G*d, people!

Some of you may remember a time in the far distant past when I was a professor, before I went to the all-widowhood, all-the-time content (and, ahem, then sort of dropped out all together, but we don't need to talk about that again, do we?) In the spirit of things I used to care passionately about, back when I cared about anything at all, I bring you...

An open letter to my fellow post-secondary pedagogues:

Please, in the name of all that is sacred, stop feeding and fete-ing our students! In the past week, nearly all of my colleagues have provided doughnuts, cookies, muffins (home-baked, yet!), pizza, or other treats for their classes. My department has clearly reached a tipping point, wherein more of us feed and serve our students than not in a given term.

And need I mention that this is almost exclusively a female, junior-faculty predilection?

We've read the studies; we know that students are more likely to expect Ladyprofs to be nurturing, understanding, and flexible--and to run screaming to the Dean at the first sign we are made of less maternal stuff. We know that younger female faculty often endure multiple comments from students about their wardrobe, youthful appearance, and purported lack of classroom management. We know from even a random survey of our pedabloguer colleagues that students today expect extra attention, special accommodations [here I am NOT talking about disabilities, but about extra tutoring for that class they missed while on a vacation in Hawaii], and "relatability" in all course material. They don't want to be challenged, reprimanded, provoked, or held accountable. We know this is mostly their parents' fault, but that it has become our de facto obligation to teach them that poor choices do have consequences, and that as their professors, it is not entirely our purview to protect them from their decision to drink heavily and oversleep through 72.6% of our class sessions by creating enough extra credit to allow them to earn an "A."

When we feed them, we simply reinforce the behavior that we bitch about the other 132 days of class.

I'm not a horrible person, nor am I cheap. I have had some classes where the rapport was extraordinary, and where I have been happy to be able to invite my students over for movie viewing, or a celebratory party. Potluck. But these ought to be the exceptions, right? We spend hours preparing for classes. We pore over their papers. We answer email 'til the wee hours. We meet with them, reschedule when they simply fail to show up, ask after their health, listen to their roommate woes, sympathize with the death of their 7th grandmother, and even--on occasion--print out a paper they have, in violation of syllabus policy--submitted via email.

I am very fond of my students. Most of them are--or will be, shortly--fine human beings, who at least pretend to be interested in me and what I teach. Many of them are people I might, if our ages were in closer proximity, might have been friends with. But how on earth does my having worked so hard for and with them all term translate into an obligation to feed them a free meal?

Shouldn't they be feeding me?


At 1:50 PM , Blogger Wol said...

Hooray! You're back! (For a while, too, I hope.) Great post--I am not feeding a single student this year...and in fact my holiday food baskets are arriving from them by the boatload.

At 8:13 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I was a TA some of my students were even bold enough to ask me to buy pizzas for them. It happened after a test that went not too great and they wanted me to promise that I will get pizzas for everybody in the class in case they will do better next time. I was quite shocked. I asked them what gave them the idea to ask for something like that and learnt that one of the professors have done similar thing for them last semester. It was a male full professor from our department, so I guess that feeding students is not a young female professor thing. Needless to say, they didnt get any food from me. Later on I observed that when the end of semester approaches many professors and TAs provide their students with food - muffins, doughnuts, chocolate chip cookies, homemade cakes, cheescakes... It really annoys me.

At 6:02 PM , Blogger Dorcasina said...

oh my lord, anon, i have never been *asked* to supply snacks--nor had them extorted from me. i guess maybe it's reassuring to know that even male full professors subscribe to this nonsense...or, perhaps not.

i'm sure i sound cranky, and i really want to distinguish between social, collective celebrations *with* one's students (which i endorse) and the sort of shameless pandering implied by spending my money bringing edible bribes to class--especially right around course eval time. and i'm really appalled by the skyrocketing frequency of this practice in my department.

At 11:28 AM , Blogger bg's Little Sis said...

Yes, they should be feeding you, with gifts, etc.

At 8:48 PM , Blogger Prof Mama said...

Great post. I understand the idea of grad professors inviting students over for a meal at the end of the term; most of my professors in grad school did this, and it was valuable. It taught us how to be a colleague, basically--how to interact with senior scholars in more casual settings, how to conduct yourself at social-but-professional functions, etc.

But the constant care and feeding of undergrads? I don't get it. I did have a party for my staff (which includes, but is not limited to, students) at my home, but again--they WORK for me. Would I invite a class to my home, or bake for them? No, not unless they were without question my favorite class ever.

And I didn't do those things for the class that was my favorite class ever.


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